Toddler music study: Peter and the Wolf 

Over the last week, Frida and I have been listening to Peter and the Wolf. This is the first time that I have been intentional about introducing Frida to a piece of music, with discussion, repeated listening, and supporting activities. I think Frida has enjoyed it – I have certainly found it really enjoyable to explore this piece of music with her.

Peter and the Wolf is the perfect piece to kick off music exploration. Written especially for children by Sergei Prokofiev, it tells a (narrated) story, and has very clearly defined instrument sounds. Peter is played by the violin, the bird is played by the flute, the duck is played by the oboe, the cat is played by the clarinet, the Grandfather is played by the bassoon, the Wolf is played by the french horn, and the Hunters are played by the timpani. This makes it an ideal piece to introduce these instruments to young children.

I am a big fan of providing Frida with the materials to act out and play around stories we have been reading together, so I thought that an enjoyable, concrete way to bring the story alive for her would be to provide her with a Peter and the Wolf story set.

This is made up of Holztiger animals and tree, and a Grimms boy doll. Frida already had most of these items, but I ordered a boy and a howling wolf (these are used in everyday play, as well as in telling this particular story, so I don’t feel these are poor value for money – I certainly wouldn’t have bought them if Frida wasn’t already heavily into imaginative play, and we were already planning on getting her a boy to go with her girl). I also made a DIY duck pond with some kite paper and the tray from Frida’s Grimms rainbow friends in cups, which she no longer uses.

Frida has also been exploring some of the instruments present in the piece using figures from a Safari Toob. Although nowhere near as good as seeing or handling real instruments, I hope these help her in being able to recognise the individual instruments and spot them when watching the piece of music.

I also really like the simple instrument videos from the London Philharmonic Orchestra (here is a link to “trumpet”). They are short, clear videos explaining how each instrument works and demonstrating a range of sounds the instrument can make. Perfect for toddlers with an interest and older children.

We have been watching and listening to this version of Peter and the Wolf, played by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: https://youtu.be/MfM7Y9Pcdzw. When we first listened to it together I wasn’t convinced it would hold her attention, at nearly 30 minutes, but it captivated her.

Although we aren’t huge fans of screentime for young children (Frida has started having a very small amount – a blog post for another day!) I think there is a huge value in watching instruments being played, and being able to link the sounds to the actions of the musicians.

Obviously YouTube pales in comparison to watching real instruments though! Over the next few months I’m going to be taking Frida to some local Bach to Baby concerts (if you’re in the UK check them out, great short concerts for babies and young children). We haven’t been for a while, and I’m hoping it will be a great way for her to learn more about music whilst enjoying herself.

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